There are many types of Principles. There are Principles for Life, Principles for Work and Principles for Success. The exponents of Principles vary from the Baptist preacher, to the hundreds of wannabe consultants populating Linked-In. All preaching fundamental and quite obvious truths. There are principles of science, law, journalism and farming— but let’s deal with the fundamental building block of principles for life— that of the need to seek and speak the truth. Veracity and strength of character, in what you say and do and the willingness to sacrifice for that truth. It is the rarest of all qualities.
This blogger was taken down this philosophical wandering path into human principles and basic truths by a recent biography on Winston Churchill. It is an incredibly long and extensively researched book, by Andrew Roberts, a total exploration of the times in which Churchill lived and the circumstances over fifty years which led to his becoming the Prime Minister of Britain in 1939. Appointed Prime Minister as the world was preparing for the Second World War.
The book is not always admiring; it points to faulty decisions, obstinate views, less than charming personality traits and all the other foibles which make up every human and make us just like our neighbour. In his long build up —as a child born into privilege, unbridled love for a less than generous father, bullied at school, a troubled relationship with his son and a sometimes unfaithful but loyal wife that all became part of his being. This was combined with a world wide and extensive education, through travel and schooling, W.W. I, being a Prisoner of War, and shot at during the Boer War. This mixture of circumstance and education joined with his social DNA to create the man, the man who many would argue was the saviour of Britain and the saviour of the world from Naziism and the scourge of Hitler.
There are a few obvious characteristics which stood out to all that watched and listened every night to the BBC broadcasts during those trying times. In examining both this man and this time in history, it is impossible not to be struck or attempt a comparison to the leaders of today. Clearly, the qualities or abilities that were on full display from 1940 to 1945 are in short supply in this day and age. It is both interesting and disheartening if one considers current policing management and the general political atmosphere in Canada.
In recent days, in this country the politicians and the policing administration has been exposed. A bright harsh light is shining down on a group of leaders who seem helpless and ridiculous—hoisted on their own petard of political correctness. Held hostage by a minority who believe that the rule of law does not apply to them. The economy stalemated by a small group of people, a radical fringe basking in their ability to cause upheaval and spout outlandish claims to the other 95% of Canada.
There has never been a greater need for a Churchill and the qualities which seem in such short supply in February 2020.
First and foremost was a fundamental honesty. And he wielded that honesty with great relish and effect. In speaking to the masses or his political War Cabinet, even in the very darkest of times, such as the evacuation of Dunkirk, he did not underestimate, play with the numbers, or fudge the losses. He was direct and sincere in his grief. He had faith in the ability of the general public to discern truth from fiction, to tell right from wrong, and to understand dire circumstances.
Secondly, he was a great communicator. He believed in the power of oratory, the power of inflection, nuance, and tone. He studied it, practised in front of a mirror, and when he rose in the House of Commons to speak, even the opposition (and there were many who disliked him) grew quiet in anticipation of what he was about to say. Most people do not know that Churchill was a writer, a journalist and one of the greatest historical record keepers in modern times. When out of power, he lived on his writing skills, and he wrote honestly and with endless fairness, even when speaking about those that had often opposed him. He skillfully injected humour into often seemingly humourless situations in an effort to alleviate the tension in which they were then living.
Thirdly, he was intelligent. He studied continuously; interested in almost every vocation and profession that entered into his sphere. He was a military expert, in tactics both in the air, on the land and on the sea. He could comment on armaments, proposed one of the first tank vehicles, and could cite naval tactics going back to Lord Nelson. He predicted the Second World War and the rise of Naziism, five years before the actual event. He talked and wrote about the plight of the Jews in Germany and Eastern Europe long before it was noticed by the rest of the world. He created MI 5 and MI 6 because of his fundamental belief in the need for intelligence even when the country was not at war.
It was intelligence based on an un-abiding intellectual curiosity, a need when in a group to speak to everyone, consider every point of view, and not avoid those with counter-views. He had no problem marching in and in front of a hostile and rambunctious crowd with little regard for his personal safety but intent in trying to argue reason over emotion. That being said he did not handle fools easily. He had no interest in the lazy and intellectually vacant.
And finally, he was brave, tireless, indefatigable, relentless in his pursuit of in what he believed and fearless in terms of pursuing it until the end. During the war when travelling to meetings he often carried his .45 revolver, not out of fear but out of a belief that if someone was going to try and kill him, he would only go down by taking someone with him.
He was famous for his afternoon naps, his cigars and his enjoyment of a good drink. A sense of life, a sense of the relatively short time we spend on earth, often working until the wee hours of the morning. While in Cabinet, he still took time to paint and to write 1500 words a day, all while the world was changing in dramatic rapidity and demands for his attention became insistent and never-ending. His decisions during the war, often involved the life and death struggles of young soldiers in the trenches, while his city was being bombed around him.
To compare our 21st century Canadian problems to that of the past seems patently unfair, as we can not easily comprehend the world in which Churchill and many others were forced to live and endure. We can not relate to real stress. Quite naturally, we have become softer, we have entered into a time period when little things become big things where “life and death” can be portrayed in an emoji.
Our lifestyles have grown along with our financial outlook and with our egos which are being projected into the ether, dutifully recorded by endless selfies. Twitter and Facebook allows us to share our small world problems with the rest of the world, yet paradoxically in Canada we seem to have no real knowledge of the other world. We are immune to the wars in Syria and Afghanistan, to famine in Africa, or massacres in Rohingya. But we are often consumed whether two members of the Royal family live in Canada as if it gives us some validity as a country. The numbers of those that have contracted coronavirus are counted and published in large “War” like headlines and displayed in graphics that would be the envy of Pixar.
But as one reviews the principles and the fundamental needs of leadership that were exemplified by Churchill, is it fair to look around and compare? Maybe not, but can we not demand that this current leadership group should have at least one quality? Can we look at Trudeau, John Horgan, Kennedy Stewart or the Commissioner of the RCMP, Perry Bellegarde of the First Nations—anyone?
Let’s examine some of the needed principles. Honesty? Well, it has been a long time since any of us ever felt that we were not being lied to, or that we were getting the unabashed truth. When was the last time any of you sat around a police meeting room conference table and felt that there was room for honest discontent, or an opposing opinion — without the fear of being ostracized? Try to be honest in your answer.
Has not the rule of thumb to be promoted to management ranks in the RCMP or any other police force in the last number of years, been that first and foremost you must be a “company” man or woman. There is no room for any counter opinion or dissent. All is good, all is well is the ongoing theme for the aspirants to the top of any government institution. Preach the political platitudes and all will be well.
Finally, are these leaders intelligent? Many are, but what is exasperating is that many have chosen to subsume that intelligence in order to advance a better career, or an increased position of power. They are expending that intelligence on doing what plays politically. What fits the polls? They often rose to positions of substance, by being non-committal, never getting caught in venturing an opinion, forever fearful of the negative spotlight. They seemed to have turned that intelligence away from the honest and forthright and have adopted the belief that the truth can not be handled by the masses. Only they know the way forward, they are the elites. Free speech or even unfiltered speech no longer a founding principle for democracy.
So where does that leave us? We have not reached the epic problems of Churchill’s time. But, we have arrived at a junction where a lack of leadership is putting us close to the precarious edge of revolt. The growth of the populist right, is being nurtured by a growing cynicism, energized by these sycophants to the liberal political ideology of appeasement at all costs.
Yes, we are in desperate times, as we scan the horizon for a leader who exudes the qualities of a Churchill, but the landscape is indeed barren. Someone intent on speaking the truth. Willing to stand for the principles of honesty and integrity and most importantly willing to be unpopular. But convinced of their stance which is supported by experience and an extended knowledge of the situation. Someone who has a basic understanding of right and wrong.
Chrystia Freeland, Marc Garneau, Mark Miller, Brenda Lucki, Jagmeet Singh, Elizabeth May and Justin Trudeau are clones; interchangeable. They are trying to propagate the belief that they and only they are the humanistic preserve of the enlightened.
Now all these issues and policies to which they marched, lock step, arms linked is now playing out on the news every night. The issues of the day are now exposing how trying to appeal to everyone, to be on both sides of the fence, will eventually lead to contradiction. Let’s be clear. Not being on the fence, but literally trying to be on both sides of an issue.
The police have gone down this road of being inseparable from the legislative arm. No longer are they strictly the enforcers of the law, independent and impartial, they are now part of the political process, enforcing and being directed only when it meets and suits the political agenda. This slippery slope comes at great cost. The RCMP has now been tainted, painted with the brush of bias, favoured interest groups being treated differently; in this case the Liberal indigenous cause.
Police management and the politicos are clearly working together now, trying to see a way out, when neither has any vision.
The economy is now staggering under the weight of illegality, but they are currently willing to sacrifice the economy to support their policy platform to which they are inexorably tied. It is their only hope for political survival. They pray each night to the gods that the indigenous will tire of their just cause, whatever that might be as the end goal is anything but clear. Their fear of violence erupting if they adhere to the rule of law would destroy their “reconciliation” platform, and their fear is palpable. It is hard to take a stand, when your only stance is to be popular.
It is pathetic to watch and it is a long way from Churchill.
In a famous speech Churchill said: ” Let us brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say; “This was their finest hour”.
This is not this country’s finest hour.
It was learned today that the CO of E Division RCMP Jennifer Strachan wrote to the indigenous hereditary chiefs offering to pull back from the enforcement of the blockade near Houston, B.C. as a sign of “good will”. No doubt a suggestion from some of her political bosses.
She and the others should pay head to another statement by Churchill:
“An appeaser is one who feeds the crocodile–hoping it will eat him last”
One thought on “In need of a Churchill”
Outstanding article Pete. Hopefully that often talked about “silent majority” will lift their heads out of their Soy Latte’s and detach their eyes from their Iphones long enough to read your very well written and insightful piece.
Really enjoyed the article as I found your reference point to Churchill was the perfect baseline by which leaders can be measured. Nobody expects another Churchill to be around every corner, but we should certainly expect integrity and personal conviction to be aspirational in those who choose to lead.
I fully support and endorse everything you wrote. The only comment I would make is your reference to the rise “of the populist right”. I think the frustration and angst of those Canadians and taxpayers who work diligently, pay their taxes and who understand the broader concept of personal responsibility and accountability…also subscribe to the notion of “the greater good”. That many citizens are now embracing this populist rise is accurate, but I believe it is a mistake to pigeon hole these folks as either “right or left” as it feeds the corrosive and divisive nature of identity politics, which I humbly submit is the root cause of the leadership deficit that is slowly destroying Canada from coast to coast. That so many Canadians vote and embrace this style of leadership is completely lost on me.
Please keep up the thoughtful prose!